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IPS board approves much smaller budget for 2015

Hayleigh Colombo

Indianapolis Public Schools leaders tonight put the final stamp of approval on Superintendent Lewis Ferebee’s plan to spend less money next year even with a hefty agenda he hopes to accomplish.

The district’s 2015 general fund budget, which pays most of the bills, is $233 million — $30 million less than it was last year. Yet Ferebee’s agenda includes turning around 40 low-scoring schools and, if possible, giving teachers the first raise they’ve had in years.

Ferebee announced in March that the district’s frequently cited $30 million budget deficit didn’t exist. In fact, he discovered and two audits confirmed, the district had a small $8 million surplus in 2013. This year’s budget also aims to actually spend less than IPS spent last year.

“The budget reflects our efforts to be more efficient with taxpayer dollars,” Ferebee said.

The district continues to be challenged by declining revenue and high costs.

Ferebee said tonight one of the district’s prime budget challenges is that it spends “significant” dollars on the district’s large special education student population. Nearly $5.8 million will be spent in 2015 on special education students, who make up about 20 percent of the district’s student enrollment.

The board also approved the hiring of nearly 300 other new teachers and staff members throughout the district.

Among them was a new principal for Harshman Middle School. James Larkin, who previously served as assistant principal at Shortridge High School, will take that post.

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